The 90th Academy Awards are this weekend which means we will soon discover which movie the film industry felt was the best released in theaters in 2017. I have watched all 9 of them to see which were my favorites and have put them into a ranked list for you. While I definitely liked some (much) more than others, I did think they were all pretty good movies, and I can definitely see why Hollywood loved them so much. Don’t look at this as a prediction of who will win however, as I strongly suspect my favorite, or even my 2nd favorite, will not be taking home the top prize on Sunday. Without further adieu, let’s get to it!
9. THREE BILLBOARDS OUTSIDE EBBING, MISSOURI
This darkly comic film was easily my least favorite of the bunch, though I am apparently in the minority as it is very strong front-runner to take home the Oscar. It did handle its primary theme of the devastating effects that holding onto hate can have on our lives and the lives of those around us very well, but it was considerably less successful in dealing with the other issues it brought up. The performances were all pretty great however, with Frances McDormand and Sam Rockwell both fully deserving their status as favorites to win.
8. THE POST
Steven Spielberg pretty consistently makes good movies, and this one is no exception. The cast does superb work and the film manages to do a very good job of crafting suspense from scenes in which anyone with even a passing knowledge of U.S. history knows the outcome. It also feels like very timely given current events, but despite everything it has going for it, it just doesn’t feel like the year’s (or Spielberg’s) best.
7. LADY BIRD
One of two coming-of-age movies nominated this year. This is the more comedic of the pair, though people might be overstating just how much of a “comedy” it is. Saoirse Ronan is great as the title character, but Laurie Metcalf really stands out as her mother. The other cast members feel underutilized, as the movie doesn’t really flesh out their characters as much as it could have. Despite that though, it is a smart look at love, family, growing up, and learning to accept yourself that is fully worth seeing.
6. GET OUT
Writer/director Jordan Peele has made a big splash with his debut feature, the politically charged horror flick “Get Out”. Using and subverting some of the tropes of the genre really helps him to get his points across about what it’s like being a black man in America today, even among supposed liberals. That being said, while often suspenseful, it’s not especially scary, which keeps it from getting the top spot from me.
5. THE SHAPE OF WATER
It’s a good year for genre films, with the latest from Guillermo Del Toro (likely to finally win a Best Director trophy) getting a horror-tinged, very-adult fairy tale into the running. It’s not his best movie, but this engaging, visually impressive fable is still better than most of what other directors are churning out. While the weirdness of the plot might seem off-putting to some, this tale of outcasts just hoping to feel a connection with someone (or something) else should resonate well with a lot of people.
Christopher Nolan’s ticking-clock World War II thriller was one of the most consistently suspenseful experiences one could have at the movies last year. Between the harrowing true story, the minimal-yet-effective Hans Zimmer score, and the non-linear script’s willingness to play with time, this one kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. If only it had a touch more humanity it might very well have taken the top spot.
3. DARKEST HOUR
This story of Winston Churchill’s rise to power and subsequent decision to continue his fight against Nazi Germany makes a perfect accompaniment to “Dunkirk”, telling the behind-the-scenes story leading up to that same day. It boasts excellent cinematography and some surprisingly effective directorial flourishes throughout, but the performances are grabbing most of the headlines here, especially Gary Oldman, who is likely to win Best Actor.
2. PHANTOM THREAD
This is a visually ravishing film, with some impressive work by the cast, and what is easily one of the year’s best scores. It is likely to polarize some viewers though, as what is ostensibly a movie about a fashion designer in post-war London and the woman who becomes his muse, is actually a somewhat odd tale about gender roles and power in relationships, with a surprising and dark ending that can take a good bit of thought to fully analyze.
1. CALL ME BY YOUR NAME
The second nominee that tells a coming-of-age story is easily my favorite film from last year. It does have a chance at taking home the Best Picture trophy, though I wouldn’t bet on it unfortunately. It is beautifully shot, superbly written, and contains several of the years best performances (though he won’t win, Timothée Chalamet completely deserves a Best Actor Oscar for his nuanced work here). The two leads have some of the best romantic chemistry to appear on-screen in a very long time, and the bittersweet tone perfectly captures the experience of first love.